Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Frank Review of 2 Films to Die For

I suspect a good many folks were like me in late 2006, bopping along the internet, when a interesting banner caught your eye: an attractive woman with a wolfman tattooed on her nude backside. I passed over the banner, only to have the wolfman spring up and scream at me. Ha ha, nice, whatever. I followed the link for the first round of 8 Films to Die For, uncovering a variety of trailers, with several looking interesting. There were no reviews at that time, and when ads for the event started hitting the papers, I asked friends if they'd be interested in checking this business out. Well, then the reviews started trickling in, revealing the movies too intensely graphic for mainstream release were in fact mostly tepid direct-to-dvd crap spun through marketing into an event. Worse, every time I visited a geekcentric web page, my mouse would inevitably graze that stupid ad, turning any once positive notice into scorn. I steered clear, but one of my friends retained interest, and loaned me her copies of the two films I had the most interest in.

Penny Dreadful

The basic premise: Penny parents were killed when she was a child in a grisley car accident she survived. This was the best, most effect scene in the picture, and its about five minutes in. As an adult, Penny has a serious car phobia, so her therapist suggests a road trip onto an isolated mountain road in winter. Oh yeah, the premise is that thin. So a creepy hitchhiker is picked up, and the mayhem begins.

In all honesty, I only wanted to catch this picture because I find Rachael Miner to be really, really hot. Sadly, she spends pretty near the entire movie in a huge furlined coat, possibly on loan from Penelope Cruz's character from "Vanilla Sky." Mmm, Cruz and Miner. So the thought advanced by my previous sentence was better than anything this film had to offer. Woman, trapped in a car, hounded by a psycho. Since in itself that should take ten minutes tops, lots of additional roadkill are introduced half-heartedly and dispatched with little more care. Also, the mostly unseen killer is exposed in the final reel, which almost always means a huge letdown. Yup. Remember that rumor that Josh Saviano from "The Wonder Years" had grown up to become Marilyn Manson? No, that's this kid.

The Hamiltons

Dead parents? Suspicious nomadic family of anti-social teenagers? Insinuation of incest between the fraternal twins? Potential fratricide? Hot chick butcherbait held in captivity? Homicidial gimp in the cellar? Directed by "The Butcher Brothers?"

How did this all go so terribly un-wrong? This could have been the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for the "Scream" set. Instead, it's "Party of Five" to the... wait, I think this is just "Party of Five." Little violence, some bothersome misogyny outweighed by days spent with crying victims, entirely too much first person narrative from the little bitchboy POV character... just bad all over. Pretty much every "twist" is spoiled in the trailer, which is okay, because they would have otherwise been spoiled in context by context.

Two duds out of 8? Or maybe it's just best to get out before I'm really upset by the loss of my precious time...


Luke said...

You've really been on a horror kick this week. I go through similar phases, though horror is more of a constant interest in my life. My wife, though: not so appreciative of the splatter stuff.

Anyways, I have never bothered with any of those "Films to Die For" because my attitude is that if any these were worth screenplays, an actual studio (read: Lionsgate) would have picked them up and developed them into something they could actually make some money on, not just release them as one big set with no advertising differentating any one from it's cohorts. It would appear that (at least for the two in question here), that I was pretty accurate for a change.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah-- It wasn't so much intentional, but fell into place quickly.

The thing about horror movies is that they are so lousy on average, anything exceptional immediately stands out. I can't think of a single horror movie of any merit that didn't generate buzz. Even movies like "Resident Evil," which I love, was noteworthy for the sheer amount of hate directed at it. I saw and on some level watched and enjoyed movies like "Cabin Fever" and "House of the Dead" because anything so despised in the genre must be unique. 8 Films To Die For? Nothing but marketing, and a good call on your part. Is there any more damning a critique of a horror movie than "inoffensive?"


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